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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Genesis 46

Verses 1-34

The settlement in Goshen is now narrated. “Judah he sent before him.” We have already seen why the three older sons of Jacob were disqualified for taking the lead in important matters relating to the family. “To lead the way before him into Goshen” - to get the requisite directions from Joseph, and then conduct the immigrants to their destined resting-place. “And went up.” Egypt was the valley of the Nile, and therefore, a low country. Goshen was comparatively high, and therefore, at some distance from the Nile and the sea. “And he appeared unto him.” A phrase usually applied to the appearance of God to men, and intended to intimate the unexpectedness of the sight, which now came before the eyes of Jacob. “I will go up.” In a courtly sense, to approach the residence of the sovereign is to go up. Joseph intends to make the “occupation” of his kindred a prominent part of his communication to Pharaoh, in order to secure their settlement in Goshen. This he considers desirable, on two grounds: first, because Goshen was best suited for pasture; and secondly, because the chosen family would thus be comparatively isolated from Egyptian society.

The two nations were in some important respects mutually repulsive. The idolatrous and superstitious customs of the Egyptians were abhorrent to a worshipper of the true God; and “every shepherd was the abomination of Egypt.” The expression here employed is very strong, and rises even to a religious aversion. Herodotus makes the cowherds the third of the seven classes into which the Egyptians were divided (Herodotus ii. 164). Others include them in the lowest class of the community. This, however, is not sufficient to account for the national antipathy. About seventeen or eighteen centuries before the Christian era it is probable that the Hyksos, or shepherd kings, were masters of the southern part of the country, while a native dynasty still prevailed in lower Egypt. The religion of these shepherd intruders was different from that of the Egyptians which they treated with disrespect. They were addicted to the barbarities which are usually incident to a foreign rule. It is not surprising, therefore, that the shepherd became the abomination of Egypt.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Genesis 46". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/genesis-46.html. 1870.